It hasn’t been the easiest season for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Coming off a career-year, the longest tenured Net entered Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with four DNP-CD’s in seven games prior. He’s received four DNP-CD’s four times total in three years prior.
But he stayed ready.
“Not playing, it’s tough sitting on that bench watching your guys go to war, but I was always ready,” Hollis-Jefferson said after Tuesday’s comeback victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Hollis-Jefferson entered the game with 4:53 remaining in the third quarter as the Nets trailed by 24. It looked like Kenny Atkinson was waving the white towel, but if you’ve watched the Nets and Atkinson grow over the years, you would’ve recognized that it was less a sign of desperation than it was an attempt at motivation ... to find somebody to bring heart.
RHJ hit five of his first six shots and scored 11 points. He played tough defense and won a couple 50/50 battles that Brooklyn had lost all night. He exposed Sacramento’s weakness by simply driving the lane and getting easy buckets.
“Honestly, going into it, I was like, the only thing we need to do is change our energy. We’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to turn the ball over, but the energy was a little low. So I just knew when I came in there I had to impact the game with my energy,” he said.
Behind his lead, the Nets went on a 19-4 run and brought it within 10 with seven minutes left. D’Angelo Russell and Hollis-Jefferson led Brooklyn on an immaculate comeback and the teams were tied at 121 apiece with 28 seconds left.
Marvin Bagley was hot all night. Atkinson put Rondae on him, and he forced a turnover with 5.9 seconds left, giving Brooklyn a chance to win the game. The play was designed for Russell. After all, he had 27 points in the fourth.
Everybody knew the ball was going to him.
Russell was denied on a potential hand-off from Rondae. DLo told him, “GO!” as he put his head down and took it hard to the hole, and twisted at the hoop to keep Bagley off balance. he finished what would be the game-winning bucket with 0.8 second left. It was the biggest shot and biggest win in the Markinson era, which means it was the biggest moment of Rondae’s career.
“We tell him every day, he’s the guy on our team that’s the heart and soul.” Russell said of Hollis-Jefferson after the game. “He came out ready to play. He didn’t play the whole first half, took care of business.”
There was something special about the moment – something that just seemed fitting for Hollis-Jefferson and the Nets. The circumstances this year haven’t been all great for him. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year and his role on this team seemed lost after a somewhat disappointing start to the season. He lost his spot to Treveon Graham, then Rodions Kurucs and had hardly played since the All-Star break. His fit in Atkinson’s system is questionable, to say the least.
But the heart and soul stayed ready.
Although the numbers don’t show for it, Rondae’s importance to this Nets’ team goes way beyond the box score. He’s the glue guy of the locker room – the one who wears his emotions on his sleeves and makes everybody feel welcome when they come to Brooklyn. He’s like the cool kid in class that everybody gravitates towards. You NEED a guy like that in every locker room.
You don’t need me to tell you that. Just watch these videos from after the game.
Then, the traditional player of the game water shower.
And this just shows how much the Nets appreciate Rondae. Candid stuff that you see on and off the floor. pic.twitter.com/aEWxe7Rutv— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) March 20, 2019
Needless to say, he fits in – but not in the way most people think. He fits in because he’s a high character individual whose been a proud Net from Day One. He’s been through it all, both good and bad, and it all goes back to his “CHAP” philosophy, which stands for Calm, Humble and Patient.
The acronym sticks because can represents not only Rondae’s philosophy, but the Nets’ philosophy as well. They’re staying calm as they’re in the midst of a brutal seven-game road-trip with only three games separating them and the ninth seed.
For Rondae, staying calm through the adversity led him up this point.
Despite the winning, despite the national recognition, they remain a humble group. It’s easy for players to get cocky as they get better. They’re only human. But so far, they’ve all said the right things, done all the right things and they’re seeing fruit to their labor.
For Rondae, it’s crucial he’s always been a humble character. He averaged 14 and seven in a starter’s role last year, but this season, he injured his groin in a Jeremy Lin charity game in China which caused him to miss preseason and the first three games of the year. He was out of rhythm and he lost his spot, somewhat causing a snowball effect the rest of the way as he forced his game trying to get back into the rotation.
And of course, patience. The Brooklyn Nets refused to skip any steps. It would’ve been very easy for Sean Marks to pull the cord and trade the young assets for an older veteran who could’ve helped now. However, the Nets have preached patience since Day One – and still do. They’re getting better, but they still have a ways to go.
For Rondae, patience has been key. In his three years prior with the Nets, he’s never won more than 28 games in a season. This year, specifically these past two months, it was crucial for him to stay patient and understand his time – his moment -- in the black and white would come.
And it did on Tuesday.
“You never know when your number’s going to be called. You never know in life what you’ll go through, but just understanding that opportunities come and when that opportunity presents itself you’ve just got to be ready.”
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson makes most of his new chance - Brian Lewis - New York Post